Within the past 7 months, I have personally known or known of three Black men who committed suicide.
These men left behind interrupted legacies of manhood, leadership, and love, and are truly missed. Considering the precarious state of our communities, three Black men killing themselves is far too many.
Suicide casts an ominous cloud of confusion, grief, anger, and regret.
Black men are five times more likely to commit suicide than Black women. Different variables contribute to this disparity, but the consequences are no less detrimental.
Due to the xenophobia that is propagated within society, Black men are continually subjugated by internal and external forces that threaten their existence. They are disproportionately affected by crime, violence, racism, un/underemployment, subpar education, and mass incarceration. Many times, these men suffer from issues that create disappointment and frustration. Without respite, hopelessness often sets in.
It’s important that we become proactive about lifting our men up and out of the deep chasms that threaten their well-being.
Here are some suggestions that can be applied within our communities:
1. Pay attention
If you’re like me, you’re always on the go; caught up in the business of life. Unfortunately, this often prevents us from properly taking care of each other. The long-standing perception of the “invincible alpha male” has led us to take for granted that our men are okay. It’s time that we slow down, stop, and pay attention to the signs of potential suicide.
Destructive behavior such as substance abuse, impulsivity, verbal and physical aggression can be indicative of serious mental health issues such as depression. Depression and other mood disorders increase the risk of suicide. Keep in mind, depression does not always present as somber moods and withdrawal from social interaction.
If you witness any of these behaviors, it may be time to check in and start a conversation about what’s happening, before the temporary issues lead to permanent devastation.
2. Talk with, not at them
Historically, and into the present day, Black men have rebelled against emasculation. They are expected to be physically, mentally, and emotionally strong, despite negative circumstances. Constructive discussions will assure our men that it’s okay for them to be fallible; it’s okay for them to be vulnerable because their strengths outweigh their struggles.
No, we shouldn’t coddle them or excuse bad behavior, especially when it’s repetitive. However, the need for compassion, understanding, and validation is a human trait, period.
3. Use the appropriate terms
The stigma associated with admitting to, and seeking treatment for, emotional and mental health issues is a reality and a hindrance to healing. According to Mental Health clinicians, a distinct trend among male patients is their reluctance and inability to verbalize their emotions.
Asking our men to describe what physically happens when they feel angry, sad, or frustrated will give them a frame of reference. It may also help to ask how they perceive those emotions when conveyed by others.
What they observe in others can help them to identify and respond to their own feelings.
4. Prepare future generations
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-24.
Teaching our young men how to articulate their experiences as they mature into adulthood is essential to their well-being and survival. There is truth in the old adage: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.”
By modeling with our language and behavior, we can teach them how to communicate and appropriately cope with their emotions.
5. Provide viable solutions
When we decide to engage, it is important to provide feasible suggestions to address and resolve the challenges that they are facing.
A diligent Internet search will yield a plethora of information. Start by checking out websites such as Healthy Black Men and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Brainstorming with others who can be trusted to assist in a discreet manner, may also help.
Sources: Dr. La-Toya Gaines, faceofdarknessdocumentary.com, BlackDoctor.org
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